The Earth Is Back On Its Axis.

Posted July 27th, 2021 @ 07:07pm

Life comes at you fast. One day you're wondering whether your favorite team's Super Bowl aspirations will be in the hands of a young man who's never taken one snap as an NFL quarterback. The next day, your favorite team welcomes back its Hall of Fame QB and likely one of his all time favorite targets to boot.

Welcome back, NFL. For some of us, the Bucks magical journey through the NBA playoffs en route to their first title in 50 years took us to the brink of training camp. Others have been sweating out the Rodgers saga, with little else to serve as a distraction.

We end up in the best possible place we could have envisioned. We get Rodgers back for likely one more run at a Super Bowl in Titletown. When Brian Gutekunst traded up for Jordan Love in 2020, he did so believing he would keep Rodgers for two more seasons, with Love getting the keys to lead the team in 2022.

Seeing Rodgers' mastery of Matt LaFleur's offense in 2020 makes we want him to lead this team until his arm falls off. That scenario could still play itself out: if the Packers win the Super Bowl and/or if he sees a change within the organization, one that gets him more involved in shaping the roster and one where he ultimately just feels comfortable with the front office. The two sides have around six months to decide whether to recommit or break up.

As I write this, multiple reports are hitting Twitter that the Packers have brought back Randall Cobb via trade, something that was rumored to be important to Rodgers. At a salary of more than $8 million, I have to think his deal would need to be massively down-sized. On the field, it's a no brainer. Even on the wrong side of 30, Cobb would have a key role in this offense, and he would be the perfect mentor for his '22 replacement, rookie Amari Rodgers. The rookie will still have a role this season, as a returner and situational Swiss army piece, a la Tyler Ervin. And Rodgers has known Cobb forever. His dad, Tee Martin, coached him at Kentucky. Can't imagine a better way to learn what it takes to be an NFL receiver.

So Rodgers and Cobb appear to be back for The Last Dance. It's going to be a bittersweet year in that way; knowing that Rodgers and the organization are likely to part. The unknown at this point is what concessions did the Packers make to Rodgers when it comes to that departure. Will he have a say in where the Packers trade him? Will the Pack cut him loose and let him go wherever he chooses (if they do, clean house in the front office). I'd be okay in taking slightly less in a trade to get him to an organization he prefers. He's earned that--nothing more.

The "Rodgers Returns" story will burn out quickly and we can get on to the fun stuff, like what the '21 Packers look like and whether they can get over the NFC title game hump. As you know, they pretty much brought the band back together, with the exceptions of Corey Linsley and Jamaal Williams.

Here's what I'm looking forward to watching: David Bakhtiari's progress and whether it's reasonable to think he can be ready by Week 1; the competition along the offensive line, suddenly a deep group, with six draft picks over the last two seasons. Could Royce Newman step in and win the right tackle job, bumping Billy Turner inside? Can Josh Myers step seamlessly into Linsley's shoes? AJ Dillon in his new expanded role: will the Pack have a true thunder and lightning backfield?

On the defensive side, will rookie corner Eric Stokes beat out Kevin King as a starter on the outside? Will rookie Shemar Jean-Charles beat out Chandon Sullivan as the slot corner? Will Darnell Savage and Rashan Gary make third year jumps and become impact players? Will a slimmed down Preston Smith, feeling the heat from Gary and in a contract year, play like he did in 2019, as opposed to last year? Will someone step up next to Kenny Clark on the line and provide some inside pass rush? Who will take over in the middle of the defense among former Gophers Kamal Martin and De'Vondre Campbell and last year's surprise Krys Barnes?

After three months of drama spun deftly by Rodgers through his agency, which also represents mouthpiece Adam Schefter, we get to think about football stuff again. The Pack will enter the season as a top five Super Bowl contender, Lambeau will be rocking with fans again.

Aaron is back, once again with a chip on his shoulder. He just won a ring as a minority owner of the Bucks. Let's see if he can add to his collection in six months or so. At least now, with him back, it's still on the table.

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Let's Face It: It's Over.

Posted May 5th, 2021 @ 02:05pm

Supposedly, there are five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. I think after number two, I went straight to number five.

Let's face it Packer fans, it appears the Aaron Rodgers era in Titletown is over. It's ending two or three years prematurely, but it's ending. There is too much solid reporting from credible, long time football reporters to believe there is any chance for reconciliation between Rodgers and Brian Gutekunst.

When Bob McGinn reports that Rodgers secretly refers to Gutey as Jerry Krause (the longtime Bulls GM who famously lost Michael Jordan's respect) to his buddies on the team, it's difficult to see a partnership continuing.

Gutey's mistake was a lack of communication and a failure to understand how best to deal with the fragile relationship a team will have with an all-time great. Yes, he should have kept Rodgers in the loop when he decided to draft Jordan Love, even if that choice was made as the draft was unfolding. He should have cared more about fringe roster decisions that might irritate Rodgers.

It's not about coddling a superstar, it's about understanding what makes him tick and working with him in a way that will ensure that as long as he is healthy and playing at a high level, it would be the organization, not the superstar, that would determine when it would be time to move on.

Rodgers is an unusual guy for an all-world athlete. He has many disparate interests; he is always on a quest to learn and try new things. His back story: forced to start at a junior college because no big schools came calling, the notorious plunge on draft day, have molded him into a man who feels self-made, who has had to fight for respect throughout his life and now feels he has earned the right to be, to paraphrase a song from Hamilton, in the room where it happens.  Like Brady is, like Jordan was.

And now he has dug in. It would be nice to hear it from his own lips, but reliable sources say he won't return as long as Gutekunst is running the show. Sure, the Pack could call his bluff and dare him to retire. Let this drama play out through the summer. But I think they will slowly reach stage five, like I have. They'll admit privately that they didn't handle things as well as they should have and they will swallow hard and trade him to the AFC, likely Denver, Las Vegas or Miami.

None of us were ready for this. We all wanted a couple more swings at the Super Bowl. Instead, it's time to reach stage five. And hope that Love will find a way.

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Where Did Our Love Go? Pack Have a Supreme Problem On Their Hands.

Posted April 30th, 2021 @ 02:04pm

Well, things just got a whole lot more interesting in Titletown. Let me rephrase that. Things just got a whole lot more terrifying in Titletown. When the Schef-bomb hit on Thursday afternoon, it suddenly put months of draft speculation on the back burner. Way, way back on the back burner.

Trying to read the tea leaves here: Rodgers has been pissed off since the Jordan Love pick. We all know this. The acknowledgement by Brian Gutekunst on Thursday night that he probably shouldn't have blindsided Rodgers with the pick--maybe give him a quick heads up--was a mistake on his part. That was a monumental screw up that forever stained the relationship between Rodgers and the organization.

This is a guy who holds grudges. All the great ones do--it fuels them. From not being recruited out of high school, to the draft day slide to the surprising selection of his eventual replacement. Rodgers is driven by these slights, and it helped spur him to his third MVP trophy in 2020.

So where do we go from here? The Packers are saying exactly what they have to say. That they have no plans to trade him. That much of Thursday's reporting was faulty: that Gutey never told Rodgers he was considering trading him this offseason; that he was not fielding calls from other teams.

Every move the team has made in the offseason has been about running it back with the same team in 2021. They're all-in, with the understanding that there will have to be some tough cap decisions next year, with guys like Davante Adams and Jaire Alexander needing to get paid. And they wouldn't have let Tim Boyle go if they thought there was a chance Rodgers' time in Green Bay was done.

It's been reported that Murphy, Gutey and LaFleur have all flown out to California to meet with Rodgers this spring. That leads me to think that this feels like a Thibs-Jimmy Butler situation. Maybe Rodgers told the team after the playoffs that he was out, to move him and let the Love era begin. And maybe the Packers brass didn't think he was serious. But maybe he's made up his mind and figures he can make things exceedingly difficult this summer and force the Packers' hand.

We know the Packers have the leverage here and that barring a trade, Rodgers has two options: play in Green Bay or retire. I think Rodgers will play for the Packers in 2021. I think he timed this news to make things as uncomfortable as possible and to make a point. But I will not be shocked if Rodgers has played his last game in green and gold. If he's dug in, I think he could call the Pack's bluff. I'm pretty certain that nothing will happen before the summer. What a mess.

As for the Pack's first round pick: I'm not at all surprised they took a CB. Once again, the Packers made a pick that will likely have a bigger impact in 2022 than in 2021. Eric Stokes has a chance to beat out Kevin King, or more likely, as soon as King gets hurt. Either way, he'll be slates to take over for King in '22.

His speed is off the charts (he ran a 4.25 40 at his pro day) and should be a special teams ace. We all know that teams are making a living ignoring Jaire Alexander's side of the field and targeting King. Stokes has performed very well against the elite WRs he faced in the SEC and he sounds like a great human being off the field as well.

That makes nine defensive backs picked in the first two rounds since 2014. Most have been misses. This one can't afford to be. If either King or Josh Jackson had hit, the Pack could have turned their attention to tackle or, heaven forbid, wide receiver in the first round. Now, you would assume the Pack will target those two positions on Friday night. We know they tried to move up in the second for a wide receiver last year. That strategy might be in play again tonight.

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